Returning the Favor
I believe in death after life. I’m sure this is not an original thought. I’m also sure it’s a thought most of us don’t like. I’m into the fifth decade of my life. I see more death than birth now. It feels real. I’m the sole survivor of my birth family. My sister and only sibling died at age 44, leaving a husband and teenage daughter. I lost my father when I was 13 and my mother a few years ago. Cousins, aunts, and uncles are passing away. I’m, of course, not alone in this. A close friend of mine recently lost her 25-year-old daughter. All this makes me notice death and its inevitability.
I question why death should be treated so much differently than birth. We like thinking about birth. We have nine months to happily anticipate it. I was born into warm, loving hands that tended to my every need. Isn’t it possible I will die into warm, loving hands that will tend to my every need? What is there to be afraid of? Of course, this is easy for me to say. I don’t have a terminal illness. I’d be kidding myself if I said I wouldn’t be frightened out of my mind. Can I diffuse the fear? Can I embrace my death?
I was in Paris once. My high school band toured Europe when I was seventeen years old. The original itinerary included seeing the Parisian sights. But Paris was cut from the trip a couple of weeks before departure due to inflation. We still had a layover there. We spent the time wandering around Orley Airport and then flew out to some other country. I strained to see the Eiffel Tower through the airplane window. I’ve felt cheated all these years. If I get bad news from the doctor and haven’t been there yet, Paris here I come.
Faced with a death I have time to anticipate, I hope I am resilient enough to make the trip, face facts, get over the fear, and give my family and friends permission to help me to die. I think that living a joyful, passionate life will help me face the end. Again, this is easy for me to say. It’s not so easy for me to do. I worry too much, always have. The late Richard Carlson wrote, “Now is the only time we have, and the only time that we have any control over.” I don’t want to feel I spent my time wandering the airport without seeing the sights. I will take control of my worry. Death will be my motivation.
It’s inevitable that I will die. Death believes in me. Why not return the favor? If believing in death is how we live best, then death has a believer in me.